Zimbabwe Government Shut Down By Strike

Zimbabwe civil servants attend a rally in Harare on Thursday to press home their demand for decent wages. On Friday, Government was effectively brought to a standstill as the civil servants announced a strike action which will go on indefinitely. The civil servants currently earn around US$150 per month and are demanding a salary of US$630 as a minimum for themto go back to work.

Harare, Zimbabwe, 07 February 2010

The Inclusive Government of Morgan Tsvangirai and Robert Mugabe has effectively been shut down by a civil servants' strike, which the strikers say will not end until their demands are met.

Teachers and all other civil servants have downed tools after the government failed to meet their demand of a minimum salary of more than US$600 per month. Tendai Biti, the Minister of Finance in the Zimbabwe Inclusive Government and also MDC-T Secretary-General, says the demands are ridiculous since the government is "not a productive entity". He says he can not "draw water from a stone" and that the civil servants have to understand that the Inclusive Government is essentially broke.

Biti on Friday offered the civil servants a minimum salary of US$137, with the highest-paid civil servant earning US$248 per month. The salaries would have been backdated to January this year.

Apart from this, the Zimbabwe Finance Minister had no good news for the civil servants, saying he was willing to put another US$4 million towards civil servants' compensation. This US$4 million, which had been slated to be released in April, would be available immediately, he said. The money would be used to fund a US$8 housing allowance for each civil servant, as well as US$7 transport allowance.

You can see why the civil servants of Zimbabwe felt this was no good news. Transportation to and from work for any civil servants would cost a minimum of US$20 a month, yet Biti was offering them US$7! Of course, there is nowhere in Zimbabwe where anyone can find accommodation for US$7 a month.

Zimbabwe Teachers Association (ZIMTA) boss, Mrs Tendai Chikore, told a rallyheld by the civil servants:

"The issue of remuneration has been neglected by the employer for many years. Government has been taking us for granted and now we are saying enough is enough.

When the GNU was formed we rejoiced as we thought it was the political panacea to our socio-politico and economic challenges but today we wonder whether this was a correct premise."

Zimbabwe Prime Minister, Morgan Tsvangirai, has been at pains to want to rehabilitate Mugabe's disastrous legacy, telling all and sundry since the formation of the Inclusive Government that he and the dictator had managed to achieve success in several fields. He cited the fact that "schools have reopened and teachers are back at work" as well as alleged success in the health delivery system to justify his optimism.

But Manuel Nyawo, CEO of Zimbabwe Teachers Association, says this is not so:

"With the little we are getting obviously we were not delivering quality service and so all civil servants countrywide, let’s work in unison and see how they will react."

It is now clear that all this was a joke. A lie, basically.

The strike has affected most arms of government, with even the courts not escaping. The High Court locked its doors at 12 noon on Friday as staff heeded the call for them to go on strike.

You have to feel sorry for the police and the army, though, who are not allowed to go on strike, although they feel the pain as keenly as any other civil servant.

As I have pointed out before, the government calls on everyone else to tighten their belts while it loosens its own. Millions of dollars are spent on travel and allowances for ministers while the workers can not get by.

The Inclusive Government could find money for such idiotic things as hiring of cars and buying office furniture at inflated prices while civil servants starve. Even Members of Parliament got allowances and loans to buy cars after having been loaned some by the Reserve Bank, yet no money can be found for civil servants.

It all boils down to priorities and the priorities of this government at the moment is to ensure that ministers and party functionaries from both ZANU PF and the two MDCs fill their own pockets and stomachs first before they turn their attention to the rest of the long-suffering population.

Even former allies of Morgan Tsvangirai, like Raymond Majongwe of the Progressive Teachers' Union, have had enough. He told a rally in Harare:

"We have been neglected for so long and we have become a soft target for alternative saving options in Government spending.

"Time has come for us to unite against our employer."

With all this going on, it is no surprise that the MDC apologist brigade does not want an alternative opposition to Morgan Tsvangirai and the MDC. They want to make sure that the people of Zimbabwe are presented only with one choice: Morgan Tsvangirai and the MDC. They will do all they can to make sure they have discredited Simba Makoni and his formidable new party, Mavambo, because the man represents the strongest challenge yet to both Mugabe and Prime Minister Mini-me.



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